What to expect from DivSeek’s upcoming Barcodes to Bioeconomy Workshop

January 5, 2023


Corresponding author: Chris Richards

‘Barcodes to Bioeconomy’ will be a small, action-oriented workshop, bringing together scientists from the broad domains of plant gene bank curation, germplasm characterization, knowledge representation, data management and bioinformatics.

Our goal is to identify gaps that currently make it difficult to integrate data describing the physical specimens held in gene banks with derived digital characterization data, and to compare end-use characteristics between crops.

Given the rapid pace of genomic characterization for plant collections around the world, it is timely to convene a workshop on the coordination of such data. The primary outcome will be publication of a draft roadmap (or White Paper) for harnessing plant genetic resources (PGR) – defining the problem space and proposing a unified vision for global co-operation.

Unfortunately, the meeting concept was postponed 3 times during the pandemic. We hope now to convene a pre-meeting of interested parties during PAG 30 alongside the networking event following our workshop (Fri Jan 13, 6pm, Pacific Salon 3-4, with refreshments!) to map out and prioritize the agenda for the ‘Barcodes to Bioeconomy’ workshop in Q2 of 2023.

Ultimately, we expect that development of interoperable information flows with feedback loops to gene banks will both improve curation and conservation, as well as downstream breeding efficiency.

Information flow about genetic resource accessions is often unidirectional, with long time-delays. The challenge of traceability between gene bank accessions and publication of characterization data (such as GWAS) is often exacerbated by subsequent re-generation in research labs.

This represents a missed opportunity because gene bank managers would benefit from accessing information about their materials to improve curation efficiency, and researchers and breeders would benefit from having more information about gene bank accessions to enable them to identify useful diversity more accurately for research and variety development.

Workshop attendees will identify challenges and look for synergistic solutions for information flows among those involved in gene bank curation activities, genotypic and phenotypic evaluation of PGR, gene discovery programs, and the development of data analysis tools and data management systems. Some of these challenges include:

How to enhance gene bank management?

  • Germplasm sampling strategies for genomic characterization and pan genome development.
  • Subsets/core and development of structured populations.

How to add value to gene bank annotation?

  • Best practices for metadata management for efficient applications by gene banks and breeders

How can end-users unskilled in ‘omics or informatics access information about PGR?

  • Develop/harness existing workflow platforms with interoperable containerized software/data repositories
  • Building API solutions to connect databases, tools and information systems across communities.

How to deliver information that promotes mobilization of variation from gene banks into the field?

We believe that by developing standard sampling and data management practices, gene banks will become more efficient at conservation, better able to deliver this biodiversity to national and international stakeholders, and more able to engage as partners in research.